Book Review: Finding Home by Emily Dugan

CY3WYR UK Border Passport Control Terminal 5 Heathrow Airport, England, United KIngdom, UK

UK Border Sign – Photo: United Kingdom Immigration Law Blog

Julia Mitchell reviews award-winning reporter Emily Dugan’s first book, Finding Home: Real Stories of Migrant Britain.

In Britain the topic of immigration can be incredibly controversial. We’ve all seen the sensationalist claims made by the media, rolled out with exaggerated figures and over-generalisations, in an attempt to shock the British public. The purpose of this book, Finding Home, is to break down those numbers with ten highly personal stories from ten vastly different migrants. These individuals contrast with each other in many ways, including their personal wealth, home country and religion, but all have one thing in common. All ten of these individuals chose Britain as their home.

I really enjoyed reading this book, which had me gripped from the very beginning. Each chapter of the book contains one story which is titled with the individual’s name (or in one case, place). The tales vary in length, and many are so hard hitting that they could easily have been dreamt up inside a writer’s head, and scribbled down inside a fiction novel.
Finding Home by Emily Dugan

This couldn’t be more true for one of the book’s opening stories, titled Uumad, which features a young man who immigrated to Britain from Pakistan. The story itself has been written with great depth thanks to Dugan’s brilliant investigative skills, and includes heaps of detail about Uumad’s life and family. But the reason that this story really left an impact on me was why Uumad began his permanent residence in Britain in the first place. After initially relocating to Britain to study for a Masters degree, Uumad was eventually forced to claim asylum after the situation in his home country became too dangerous for him to return. Persecuted in Pakistan for belonging to the Ahmadi branch of Islam, Uumad’s family were attacked by gunmen one Friday on their way home from prayers. Uumad barely escaped the conflict within his life, fleeing to England with a bullet still lodged inside his skull. The staggering amount of trauma that this man faced simply astounded me, and I’m relieved that he was welcomed safely into England.

Not all of the stories are this dramatic, but each one is powerful and incredibly insightful. Some chapters highlight the failings of the immigration system currently in place in Britain, particularly the Home Office’s inability to resolve applications in a reasonable amount of time, or sometimes to resolve them at all. Those stuck in the system often struggle, and are caused to suffer a significant amount of distress, as is seen in Clive’s story. Other migrants struggle with racism, and the divisions that have been created in individual communities such as Boston in Lincolnshire.

While there are plenty of problems that need to be addressed in Britain’s immigration system, Finding Home also reflects the flipside of this. There are charities that work tirelessly to aid those in difficult situations, and communities that band together to offer each other support in what can often be an extremely difficult point in someone’s life. Passages that feature these acts of goodwill serve as a reminder of the kindness that human beings are capable of giving.

Regardless of your opinions on immigration, I implore you to read this book. It’s honest and powerful recollections will force you to look beyond the figures, and at the individuals that make up the numbers. We’re all people, after all, and ‘we all smile in the same language’.

Finding Home by Emily Dugan is published by Icon Books and on sale from the 2 July at £12.99. For more information visit the book’s Goodreads page here.


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